Climate Change: Effects on Habitat Suitability of Tree of Heaven along the Appalachian Trail

Authored by: John Clark , Yeqiao Wang

Atmosphere and Climate

Print publication date:  June  2020
Online publication date:  May  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138339675
eBook ISBN: 9780429440984
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter provides a projection modeling of habitat suitability for tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), an invasive species pervasive throughout the United States due to its rapid growth, high fecundity, hardy tolerance, and strong competitive ability. This modeling approach demonstrates the capabilities of using seamless geospatial data and climate models along with ground-based Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) data from the USDA Forest Service to model the current and potential future distributions of suitable Ailanthus habitats within the Appalachian Trail landscape. In the model, projected precipitation and temperature data based on scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the period 2095-2099 were substituted for current climate variables to examine potential trends in the distribution of suitable tree of heaven habitats. The results indicate that total suitable habitat areas will increase from 53.55% to 71.11%. Additionally, the mean elevation of suitable habitats will increase by 12.27 m, and the mean latitude will shift north by 67.72 km2. The predicted changes were most dramatic along the New England section of the Appalachian Trail.

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